A MAN has gone on trial for the fourth time over the death of a Scots woman who disappeared 23 years ago after emigrating to Australia.
Ronald Leslie Pennington, 86, is charged with the manslaughter of Cariad Anderson-Slater, whose remains were found in the garden of his former home.
Mrs Anderson-Slater, originally from Elgin, Moray, moved to Australia in 1990 before vanishing two years later, aged 42.
Her whereabouts remained a mystery until her body was discovered in 2011 when workers dug up the garden of Pennington’s former home in Perth, Western Australia.
Pennington was found guilty of the killing in 2012, but his conviction was quashed when a court of appeal found the judge had misdirected the jury. He was then retried in 2013, but jurors failed to reach a verdict and the case was abandoned.
A third trial collapsed last year after jurors discussed information about previous trials.
The first day of the latest trial at the West Australian Supreme Court heard Mrs Anderson-Slater and her husband David had befriended Mr Pennington after arriving in Perth a couple of months before her disappearance.
Prosecutor Justin Whalley said on the night before the alleged killing, Mrs Anderson-Slater and her husband had dinner with Mr Pennington at his home, but it ended after there was an argument about the Royal family and republicanism.
Mr Whalley said Mrs Anderson-Slater and her husband then had another argument at their home over her drinking, and she ended up going to the next-door neighbour’s house.
He told the court she later telephoned Mr Pennington and caught a taxi to the street where he lived.
He said: “The taxi driver watched her until she got to the front door of a house. She went inside and was never seen again.”
During opening statements, the court heard claims from Pennington’s defence lawyer Simon Frietag that Mr Slater was responsible for her death.
Citing Mr Slater’s self-published book Cry from an Unholy Grave, Mr Frietag said he had underplayed the seriousness of an argument before her death and he and was back on the dating scene a few days after his wife’s disappearance.
He said Mr Slater also changed his will nine days after she vanished, describing himself as a widower.
Mr Frietag said: “I’m going to suggest some of the circumstances point in the direction of David Slater having both the motive and opportunity.
“David Slater is a viable alternative suspect.
“The way he behaved was consistent with him knowing she would never come back.”
He said Mr Slater stood outside Pennington’s house for two nights in a row to “scope it out” before burying his wife in the backyard, not expecting her body to be found and assuming someone else would be blamed if it was.
Prosecutor Justin Whalley said that scenario was highly improbable.
While Mr Slater was initially the main suspect, police in that first investigation had only given Pennington’s house a cursory search and he wasn’t interviewed, Mr Whalley said.
He said Pennington had also lied about receiving a phone call from Mrs Anderson-Slater after the couple returned home from dinner, but later “came clean”.